The Ghosts of Kerfol

The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

Book: The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deborah Noyes
    “That’s some fiend you’ve got there, Suze,” said Gerard as they climbed the lawn. “What’s more, if that’s how you treat an intruder, I hope to have the pleasure of trespassing soon.”
    By midnight, the gin was beginning to wear off and with it her shallow ardor for Tres (maybe she didn’t want him — with Stan so close in her thoughts — but Peg certainly didn’t deserve to have him, either).
    Suze left the ruckus in the library behind and went out into the great hall with its echoes and painted ceiling. She walked to and up the far staircase, her eyes adjusting to the darkness, and wandered the shadowy halls in the closed west wing. Most of the doors she tried were locked. Contractually, they were inhabiting only the east wing, but she was restless and starved for solitude, so she turned all the knobs until one opened. It was a long room overlooking the rear of the estate and the distant orchard of gnarled black tree trunks entreating the moon.
    She sat on the sheet-shrouded daybed to drink in the quiet with her gin.
    As her eyes began to adjust to the silvery light, dim objects in the room came into view: an ornate brass clock, uncovered, strangely; the legs of a mahogany dressing table visible under a sheet; a large painting on the wall facing the daybed.
    Something about the picture gave her pause.
    It was the necklace.
    The woman in the portrait, whose features were partly painted over, had on the very necklace Suze now wore. The artist had captured its glint and rich waved contours well and crisply, and the likeness thrilled and terrified her.
    The others seemed suddenly very far away indeed. Before she broke from the main gathering, she’d looked in on the band, which had broken for chow and spilled into the kitchen with bow ties askew and pressed white shirts coming untucked. Craving their easy banter now, she stood abruptly, then raced down the hall and down the steps with her empty glass. The band was with the others in the library, someone told her, so she headed back that way and almost ran smack into Tres, lolling in the hallway, smoking, alone.
    He caught her lightly by the wrist, stabbing out his cigarette in a glass on the sideboard, and spun her over to him like a clumsy dancer. This might have charmed her under other circumstances, at least for a minute, but she felt too unnerved and tired to join in or even protest.
    She closed her eyes and pretended his shirt was Stan’s, that she could rest against his breastbone, and for a minute this strange boy was silent and let her, something Suze felt more than naturally grateful for. “You’ll have to come back,” she whispered, pulling away lightly, “and play some other day. I’m calling it a night.” She motioned with her chin, her hair falling at a slant down her cheek. “And they don’t know it yet, but they are, too.”
    “I’ll do that.” Tres smiled with only half as much guile as she was used to.
    He wasn’t Stan, but she could pretend. Suze kissed him good night. Just because. And she almost meant it.
    Tres didn’t come to the next soiree, and she allowed herself a small dose of disappointment. She wandered about feeling adrift, unreal, lonely. Suze stood in a noisy corner with her eyes closed, swaying, and could almost feel Stan’s hands strong in her hair, moving fast under her raccoon coat in the roadster.
    She remembered the act of dressing for him to undress her: turned-down hose and powdered knees, scarlet screen-star lips like Clara Bow’s, painting her mouth small and pert and bee-stung. Dressing for him had given her life meaning, ritual. She was a package for him to open. That was her gift to Stan, and she gave it over and over, and now she had his child inside her to show for it, was carrying his breath and blood in her body, and she would maybe never speak to him again. He would never know. And whom could she tell? Not Daddy or Emily. Damn Emily.
    The one time she’d tried to tell her,

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